Let it be know: Sleeping Village stalwart Izzy doesn't skimp when it comes to year end lists. As such, we'll be publishing, over the course of the next few days, a series of genre-specific Top 20 lists proudly bearing the Izzy stamp of approval. As "death" in and of itself tends to be a broad descriptor the assorted sub-genres existing under the umbrella have been labeled for yer convenience.
Says Izzy in regards to this list: "A summary of 2020's death metal to me is "everyone else liked it but I don't get it", very few of the years most popular releases clicked with me, so while I don't think any of my picks here are controversial, I think there is more underground-ish releases. Enjoy!"
Written by: Izzy
20. Ceremonial Bloodbath - The Tides of Blood (Sentient Ruin Laboratories)
Straightforward war infused death but it sells it with some entrancing and fierce riffage, perhaps underrated for not being anything new, but I think Ceremonial Bloodbath are exactly what I want in some war. (Death metal, War metal)
19. Cosmovore - Into The Necrosphere (Independent)
This is technically an EP but it’s almost 30 minutes so I’m including it anyways because it’s got a stellar and unique approach to blackened death metal, using 8 string guitars to create a particular grandiose atmosphere, worth keeping your eye on for sure. (Blackened death metal)
18. Cryptodira - The Angel of History (Good Fight Music)
This release dropped suddenly and was very interesting to me, it’s certainly a favourite of the year but I can’t say if it will hold my attention into the future, but I do love the twists they make on the classic Opeth formula for prog death. (Progressive death metal)
17. Cryptae - Nightmare Traversal (Sentient Ruin Laboratories)
While I still love this album, it’s a clear step down from their EPs in my opinion, it’s a beautiful cavernous monstrosity, but what really kneecaps it from appearing higher up is the terrible drum production. (Avant-garde death metal, Death doom metal)
16. Defeated Sanity - The Sanguinary Impetus (Willowtip Records)
Defeated Sanity are still at the top of most modern death metal, even if they aren’t at the top of their game, this is one of their weaker releases, but I think still sits nicely alongside my favourites of theirs and will definitely get more playtime. (Technical death metal, Brutal death metal)
15. Thætas - Shrines to Absurdity (Maggot Stomp)
Maggot Stomp signed a lot of very exciting new acts this year, but Thætas’ aptitude for mixing dissonance and brutality shines very brightly amongst their roster, I’m hoping we get more tech death that is both complex and meatheaded like this. (Brutal death metal, Technical death metal)
14. Undergang - Aldrig I Livet (Dark Descent Records)
Had heard great things about this band for years, finally listened to them and they’re great! It’s cavernous old-school grimy death metal with a bit of death doom thrown in too, not reinventing the wheel but still exactly what I like. (Cavernous death metal)
13. Undeath - Lesions of a Different Kind (Prosthetic Records)
Undeath’s subtly technical approach to OSDM is refreshing and enjoyable throughout, it’s not perfect but everything put forth here is already on a totally different level than the average death metal band. I’m excited for whatever comes out next as I have a strong feeling these fellas have yet to reach their peak. (Old-school death metal)
12. Pharmacist - Medical Renditions of Grinding Decomposition (Rectal Purulence)
A recommendation from my grind loving pal Arzou and I absolutely fuck with this, buzzy and crushing guitar clashing with pitch-shifted and near inaudible guttural clamour, it’s Reek of Putrefaction worship at it’s finest and a gem for fans of gore. (Goregrind, Death metal)
11. Hexeth - Interval (Independent)
Deathspell Omega, for him! Jokes aside this is a really, really good blend of dissonant black metal and technical death metal, It’s intricate and passionate but still primitive and war-like, Interval leans very tightly between black and death but I hear a lot of Defeated Sanity undertones in this that solidify as heavily blackened tech death in my mind. (Technical death metal, Black metal)
10. Miasmatic Necrosis - Apex Profane (Independent)
Gore of the year and I really hope it becomes a goregrind staple in future because if this was my first experience with the genre I’d be in love instantly I adore how energy packed and primal this whole thing feels, perfectly nailing the pacing between short and long tracks. (Goregrind, Deathgrind)
9. Sweven - The Eternal Resonance (Ván Records)
Went into this with low hopes expecting more boring modern prog, ended up getting a layered and complex piece of progressive metal leaning in between ferocious death metal and introspective psychedelia, it’s an excellent debut and one of the best progressive albums of the year as well. (Progressive death metal, Psychedelic rock)
8. Imperial Triumphant - Alphaville (Century Media Records)
Imperial Triumphant have been on their A game since 2018's Vile Luxury blew up, and while that was predominantly a black metal album, Alphaville cranks up both the technicality and brutality, leaving it only slightly blackened but still just as beautifully infused with jazz as always, I do think I like Vile Luxury more, however, there is no doubt I love this record too. (Technical death metal, Avant-garde metal)
7. Proscription - Conduit (Dark Descent Records)
Conduit displays it’s dissonance in the same way an Ulcerate record would, but through the vehicle of blackened death rather than tech death, it’s aggression is foremost but there is a constant feeling of melody sitting in the background of riffs and it builds a strong atmosphere throughout, showing a talented maturity for writing songs meant to make you break shit. (Blackened death metal)
6. Editors Note: as the #6 album on this list was (regrettably) released by a label we do not promote, it will (regrettably) not appear at the Sleeping Village. Please visit Izzy over on Instagram for the list in full.
5. Black Curse - Endless Wound (Sepulchral Records)
Hopes were already high for this supergroup as soon as they appeared, and I feel they surely delivered some of the best primitive and commanding death metal of the year, while still remaining varied and dynamic in their approaches to it, the seamless transitions between death metal, black metal, and war metal keep every riff feeling exciting fro start to finish. (Blackened death metal, War metal)
4. Afterbirth - Four Dimensional Flesh (Unique Leader Records)
I mean no exaggeration when I say bands like Afterbirth are responsible for helping move metal music forward, they’re the progenitors of slam and in 2020 they’re reinventing the idea of what progressive death metal can look and sound like, producing a futuristic take on the genre that is a synthesis of its influences best characteristics. (Brutal death metal, Technical death metal, Progressive metal)
3. Pyrrhon - Abscess Time (Willowtip Records)
The melting pot of Pyrrhon’s influences reaches new creative peaks here, bouncing between songs that are manic and grisly or sludgy and foreboding, sounding often like Swans if they liked Cryptopsy more than Godflesh, it’s a bunch of new ideas but everything is still distinctly Pyrrhon in attitude, while I prefer their previous album What Passes For Survival, I think this was the best possible followup. (Technical death metal, Sludge metal)
2. Kommand - Terrorscape (Maggot Stomp)
My favourite new 2020 signee to Maggot Stomp, Kommand reignited my love for old-school grimy death metal, their songwriting is uniquely infused with a sort of beatdown hardcore love for moshing and breakdowns, creating music that is both brutal and catchy. It’s doubtlessly a death metal record first and foremost, but the dumb fun and ceaseless core breaks sets off the same dopamine receptors that Knocked Loose or Nails would, that much should say if it will appeal to you or not. (Death metal, Old-school deathcore)
1. Ulcerate - Stare Into Death and Be Still (Debemur Morti Productions)
No amount of hype or excitement could have prepared me for how good Stare Into Death and Be Still would be, it instills within Ulcerate’s fury a sense of melancholy and emotion that cuts deep to the core. Their sound at it’s most titanic and powerful but also it’s most introspective and melodic, it is a jaw dropping album in both it’s command of technicality and harmony, choosing this as number one was the easiest decision I’ve made all year.
(Technical death metal, Atmospheric death metal)
Find Izzy's year end lists here!
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!